When a person struggles with alcohol or drug addiction, substances often become the person’s only means of feeling pleasure or contentment, both physically and behaviourally. The goal of addiction treatment and rehabilitation is to help the user once again receive pleasure and enjoyment from everyday activities, without the need for substances.
The target of the project “MUCH MORE” is to develop and test new approaches and techniques by combining art therapy, practical healthy nutrition and cooking classes with physical activities in order to maximize the physical, mental and emotional wellness of these men. Physical activities can be a great way to relieve stress, anxiety, frustration and anger. They also allow people to reconnect with hobbies they enjoyed as a child, or discover new “healthy obsessions”.
“I consider that all the workshops are useful but especially I prefer healthy cooking classes. Information received makes me understand that people in Latvia do not eat healthy. They consume too much food which could be substituted by other products. I really have got to know a lot of new information. Also art therapy classes are attractive. I got to know some instruments that I did not know that they even exist!” says Romans, Riga.
“I prefer most of all physical exercises” emphasizes Eriks and tells that he and his “peer group members” at the rehabilitation centre “Nova Vita” (Riga) have serious attitude towards sport. Through physical activities they learn to understand that people need to move and be active. At the same time he admits that the trainer is strict and requires that the tasks are carried out exactly in the manner they are demonstrated. And it is not easy at all. At the same time Eriks also adds that he has learned some new exercises which he tries to do in the mornings by himself.
The trainer of the group Agrita agrees that it is not an easy task for her to plan physical exercises for this special target group because “these men are so different - some are very weak, some are stronger, their degree of strength is so different. And this is understandable because of their past experience with alcohol.” During physical activity classes she explains the benefits that come with any type of exercise.
The Project tries to support these men as much as possible. New t-shirts, gym bags, water bottles and cups are those small things that might provide enjoyment, satisfaction, self-esteem and in a long-term help finding new ways to fill their time.
By Aija Vecenāne, City of Riga Welfare Department
For a long time, our clients have requested to go shooting with air pistols. Finally at the beginning of February the MUCH MORE Turku group visited the Shooting Arena.
Shooting with air pistols is pretty challenging sport even if it seems to be easy and light. Your back muscles and arms need to be physically in a very good condition. Many of the clients said after the activity that they didn’t understand how intense and hard sport it is. It really makes your muscles sore.
Eight people were registered to the activity and all of them came to the arena. Two of them were newcomers to the group. After the shooting sessions it seems that the newcomers will commit to these MUCH MORE activities.
Lessons learned from previous activities: remind the clients about the date, remind the clients again and after that remind the clients again. Now it worked very well. Group is very committed to the activities that we arrange and now they even start to plan next activity by themselves. This is something that we have been aiming for and now it seems to work.
At the shooting arena, we had a good coaching on how to shoot. Range was 10 meters and the air pistol target is 17x17 cm with concentric score zones, the innermost (worth ten points) having a diameter of 11.5 mm. In official air pistol shooting you should hold your gun with one hand but we, as doing this first time, kept gun with two hands. Still some of the bullets flew totally out of the target. Nevertheless, after some practice, there were four guys who got bullseye and scored 10.9 points!
Air pistol shooting is an excellent hobby for the target group. You have to concentrate and be calm and totally focus on one thing. Usually the target group can concentrate to one thing maximum 1 minute, but when you are in the middle of an interesting hobby, you are able to do your own performance fully concentrated. Activity lasted for two hours and there were about 200 shootings per person.
Air shooting can definitely be recommended to the target group!
By Totti Räsänen, Blue Ribbon Association of Southwest Finland
Much More Turku group visited Turku Curling Arena in January. This was the first activity in 2019 and visiting an ice rink during a cold and snowy Wednesday was a perfect way to start the winter activities.
Curling is a sport in which players slide stones (7kg stones) on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules and shuffleboard. Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones, with each player throwing two. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.[i]
10 people were registered to the activity but only 4 of them came to the arena. Clients who didn’t arrive had different explanations why they were not able to join in. Obviously, we have to understand that the weather in Turku was harsh at that time. It was minus degrees and a lot of snow, so some of the clients didn’t want to go outside at all. Also, they were afraid to spend two hours in a cold indoor ice rink. The members of the target group are not able to stay committed to the arranged activities. Now that we have learned this, we need improve what we are doing. In future we need to support them more so they could keep their commitments to the activities they have signed up for.
Back to the curling business: Previously, we had thought it to be very difficult as sliding on the ice is not something you do every day. Nevertheless, with good coaching we were able to see and understand how the rock will be thrown. After couple of falls, throwing the rock started to go better! Competition was hard and the other team won with scores 7 to 3.
Slippery when on ice phrase demonstrates well the behavior of the target group. When a person has an addiction he or she is walking on very slippery ice. One wrong step can drive them to misuse again.
Our next activity with clients is planned and scheduled to February.
By Totti Räsänen, Blue Ribbon Association of Southwest Finland
The MUCH MORE project in Turku organized the second training for professionals just before Christmas. The topic of this training was co-operation with the trained experts by experience.
The training was held by Reijo Lappeteläinen, who works as a substance abuse treatment therapist and coordinates the trainings for people who want to become experts by experience. Reijo Lappeteläinen coordinates a program that trains yearly about 10 to 20 professionals. The program includes 100 hours of lessons for students and the practical training part.
Experts by experience are people with lived experience of substance misuse or mental health, for instance. In Finland recovered alcoholics must pass a demanding training before they can become trained experts by experience. By sharing their expert voice and very special kind of knowledge trained experts of experience can help professionals who work with substance abusing clients.
It’s a big problem that the target group of the MUCH MORE project, middle-aged men with past addiction problems – and people with addiction problems in general – don’t trust authorities or treatment providers. Cooperation with trained experts by experience can help build trust between clients and professionals. For clients, presence of the experts by experience can also mean peer support. As already recovered addict experts by experience can be approachable role models for clients.
Why professionals should listen to trained experts by experience? Because these people have personal lived experience of alcoholism, they really know how it feels. Professionals without addiction background don’t know. Reijo Lappeteläinen points out that knowledge based on lived experiences can complete the knowledge of the professionals. That is something we should consider more often.
One of the students from the program Lappeteläinen coordinates participated our training session. He told his story and we, professionals, were able to ask him questions of each stage of addiction he has been going through. The discussion was productive and we got good insights into what kind of issues substance addict thinks in each stage of his journey. Of course every addict has his or her own journey, but it’s very crucial that we as professionals understand the thinking behind of addiction. Knowing and understanding the story behind of addict helps us to serve our clients better.
By Totti Räsänen, Blue Ribbon Association of Southwest Finland
Although motivational interviewing is often used to address addiction and is well-known intervention, more than 20 professionals working with the addicts welcomed the possibility to attend the workshop “Motivational Interviews with Addicted Clients”, which took place on 7 December 2018 in the Welfare Department of the Riga City Council. This intervention helps people become motivated to change the behaviors that are preventing them from making healthier choices.
What is addiction and what are its causes? There are a lot of definitions, explained Ms Katrina Reikmane, a very experienced psychotherapist and couch - a trainer at this workshop. She presented the personality profile of an addict and explained their emotional needs. The addiction recovery plan was also presented and analysed.
Motivation is an internal interest, which causes person’ s activity and drives their actions. During the workshop it was stressed that internal motivation is stronger than external if it is rooted in one’s satisfaction of emotional needs and values. The principle of motivation which is “directive, person centred counselling style that aims to help people explore and resolve their ambivalence about behavioural change” (Michael Wilesand Cross Country Education, Inc.2005) was also explained. The participants of the workshop were practically involved and were invited to accomplish various tasks in pairs. Everybody had to choose one’s own goal which requires change of behavioral habits and which they have had difficulties to achieve so far, such as losing one's weight, stop eating sweets, drinking too much coffee. Then the other colleague had to use motivational interview to help his/her partner reach the set goal.
Motivation traps and ways how to avoid them are of great importance. The trainer stressed that there is danger for the professional not to “merge” with the client and become unhelpful. There is also danger that a professional could lose one’s belief and motivation. The importance of cooperation among various specialists was underlined. The participants were very positive about the workshop: “Very satisfied with the workshop! It was good that theory was mixed professional exchange of experience and practical tasks.“
By Aija Vecenane, Riga City Council Welfare Department
MUCH MORE project Turku tested archery and experienced moments of mindfulness.
Take a good position and stand straight. Be calm, breathe and relax. Concentrate, concentrate and concentrate. Focus on the target.
This might sound like some kind of mindfulness or meditation practice but actually I’m talking about archery – a sport that MUCH MORE team in Turku tried last week.
The group of six men participated in this peer group session that was a bit different from any other group sessions we have had before. Two trainers from a local archery team taught our Much More group the basic techniques. None of the group participants had tried archery before. To them it was something totally new.
During this group session the men hardly talked though speaking was not denied. The guys who normally tell jokes stayed nearly quiet this time. That’s because speaking while shooting arrows is nearly impossible. Multi-tasking and archery is a combination that just doesn’t work.
Archery is demanding though the basic technique is quite simple. It seems that you just need to stand and shoot. But if your mind is wandering it is nearly impossible to hit the target. Relaxation, focusing and concentration are necessary for perfect shots. You must really calm your nerves before you can release the bowstring and shoot. Otherwise you don’t shoot well.
This is how practicing archery resembles practicing mindfulness, the art of being present. Archery can teach you how to control your attention and regulate your emotions. It can help you to become more mindful and more able to concentrate.
We finished our archery session with a playful shooting competition. Our clients got a chance to release their inner Robin Hood. It was fun and freeing. All in all – they enjoyed themselves and left the group session happy and calm. We managed to hit the bulls-eye.
By Terhi Toppala, Blue Ribbon Association of Southwest Finland
While the MUCH MORE project is going slowly to the end with six months of activities left, the groups in Gävle, Turku and Riga continue to meet and support each other. Last week, the Gävle group was visited by Anders Nilsson, who runs his own company working with our target group but also other groups. Anders is also an addiction therapist, he used to be a football player e.g. at the elite level Gävles football team. Previously he worked with rehabilitation of sports injuries but is anow focused on "Aware Breathing".
The one applied during the first meeting with MUCH MORE group, was a simpler form and on the next occasion, we will try a "stronger form" of aware breathing that will last for a long time.
"Aware Breathing" originates in a method called "Rebirthing". "We in the West have lost the insight that the head and body are together as a unit." Experiences, crises, traumas "settle in the body and the body remembers".
Anders says that for a long time ago when people were hunters, the body and brain were 80% dormant while 20% were in preparedness to see if some kind of danger. In today's modern Western societies, the relationship is the reverse.
Mr Nilsson told the group about how he had experienced it at the first moment he tried releasing breathing when the "pressure over the chest dropped" and all stress left the body and head. He said that his emotions were set free.
After we had tried the simpler form which Anders called the 3*30 method the hole group felt that they wanted to try the more intense form next week.
By Johan Pliakas, STICKAN
The project MUCH MORE has launched its video clip promoting the empowering and peer-group activities towards men with past addition problems at the Central Baltic Programme Annual Event taking place in Turku on 14-15 November. Positive comments like ”It was an absolute pleasure to watch that video, thank you” were received.
In the video, the professionals working with the target group shared their opinions about what does the project bring to the lives of men, what can they learn from this experience and what comes to their mind when they think "MUCH MORE project". At the same time, the feedback of the target group is presented. The video can be watched on youtube. Click here.
MUCH MORE project partners from Gävle, Turku and Riga gathered together in Riga on a study visit on 16-17 October to share the gained experience in working with men with past addiction problems, exchange ideas for peer group activities and discuss the plans for further actions.
During the days in Riga, the international project team had the possibility to participate on site visits, offered by the hosts of Riga. The first site visit took the team to a social rehabilitation center called NOVA VITA. The visit began with an introduction of the Betlehem Charity House by Dana Anskaite and Liga Roke-Reimate. NOVA VITA offers a rehabilitation program for addicted adults. A multiprofessional group is working with the men to offer them support through the daily program.
Work and social issues, health and relationship problems and topics like self-worth, identity and values are daily issues, which are being processed among the men with the help of professionals. Men live in a shared the community and they are being encouraged to develop their practical skills in every-day and spiritual life. As taking the tour around the building, partners could meet some of the men, have a chat with them and ask about their feedback towards the MUCH MORE project. Men said that they are particularly happy with the cooking classes and one men said that the physical activities “brought him to life”.
Next stop at the social rehabilitation center RATNIEKI, which is located outside of the city of Riga. The rural surroundings of the center impressed the project team right away. RATNIEKI was established in 1998 and since then it has been the base for the men participating the MUCH MORE project.
Also in this center, men have a daily schedule to be followed. Sports, different kind of wooden work, cooking classes and several other kind of activities are offered by multiprofessional team of therapists, social workers, artists etc. One of the most impressive concrete achievements of the team work at the center was clearly a residential cottage which the men have built together. Again, the team had the possibility to get to know the facilities of the center, have a little chat with some of the men and see how men are living.
Additionally, there are more exciting things happening in the MUCH MORE project: a video clip about the project is under development! It will offer you a short insight into our project by showing an interview with the partners, describing the project in shortcuts and letting the professionals know what the peer-group activities bring to the work with the difficult-to-reach target group.The video clip will be published soon on our webpage, don´t miss it!
There was a crowd of people from all round the world discussing and learning about the projects and achievements of participating associations, organizations and cities, which are presented in posters at the International Healthy Cities Conference 2018 that took place 1-4 October at Waterfront in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The moderate poster walk was one of the multifaceted and interesting program of the conference.
Iina Lenz, the project coordinator of BRHCA took part of the poster walk among many others by presenting the MUCH MORE project. That was an opportunity for the other conference delegates to get to know more about the presented projects. Questions like how men experienced the activities, if cooperation partners do learn from each other´s experiences during the project and if the project has really reached men to participate, occurred during the walk.
“Gladly we can announce that we have reached a group of men in all partner countries and have received positive and constructive feedback from them. Thanks to MUCH MORE, men had a possibility to take part in designing and developing the activities together with the professionals. We have been in an intensive cooperation among the partners and have had interesting discussions about the achievements and challenges to develop more interesting and more empowering activities for the target group.” Iina reported.